UFC 296 Preview: Motormouth Covington Ready for What Could Be Final Title Shot

December 14, 2023
4 months

Colby Covington will be able to relax Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Paradise, Nevada. When Covington fights his opponent, the American welterweight title challenger will at least be able to see his opponent coming this time. Covington hasn’t fought in the Octagon since he beat Jorge Masvidal by decision on May 5, 2022.

Later that month, Covington was attacked by Masvidal in the parking lot of a Miami restaurant and ended up suffering a broken tooth after being sucker punched twice. Covington was named as the title challenge for Leon Edwards despite being out of the Octagon for well over a year and a half. There is a lot of pressure on Covington to win this fight with Edwards, as this will be Covington’s third title shot during his time in the UFC.

Covington was the interim welterweight champion after beating Rafael dos Anjos, but later had the championship stripped from him. He would later challenge Kamaru Usman twice for the title, losing once by TKO and the other time by decision.

Edwards will be making his second attempt at defending the welterweight championship. He won the championship with one of the greatest knockouts in UFC history by beating Usman with 56 seconds remaining at UFC 278. He successfully defended the title against Usman by majority decision at UFC 286.

This will be the UFC’s final fight card of the year and is littered with top contenders and interesting potential matchups, according to the best MMA news site.

From Prelims to Co-Main Event

Flyweight title challenger Brandon Royval was incensed following his win at a UFC fight night card on April 15, 2023. Royval couldn’t believe that his knockout win over Matheus Nicolaus was relegated to the preliminary card instead of being on the featured card. It was the third straight win for Royval, who will now have an opportunity to fight Alexandre Pantoja for the championship Saturday.

Royval’s complaint was a legitimate one. He has a reputation for pushing the pace and attempting to end the fight early. He is 15-6 in his career and has five knockouts and eight submission victories on his record. Royval has also had a strong strength of schedule.

He fought Pantoja back in August 2021, losing by submission in the second round. Royval’s fight with Pantoja followed his bout with future champion Brandon Moreno, who beat Royval by KO. Pantoja is on a four-fight winning streak and is coming off a split decision win over Moreno to improve to 26-5, according to MMA breaking news.

Pantoja is also a finisher, piling up eight knockouts and ten submissions during his career. This fight with Royval should be entertaining for as long as it lasts.

Wonderboy Will Play Gatekeeper

Shavkat Rakhmonov looks like a legitimate contender at welterweight. Rakhmonov just needs to prove he can hang with the toughest competition the UFC has to offer. During his time in the UFC so far, Rakhmonov has finished all five of his fights.

Rakhmonov’s most recent trip to the Octagon ended with a submission win over Geoff Neal that allowed Rakhmonov to improve to 17-0 on his career. Stephen Thompson will be an interesting matchup with Rakhmonov. Thompson is a former title challenger who is known for his karate style.

Thompson hasn’t fought since he beat Kevin Holland last December. He did find himself at the center of controversy in July. Thompson was scheduled to fight Michael Pereira at UFC 291 in July. Pereira came in three pounds over the weight limit, and Thompson declined to fight. Thompson’s decision to withdraw from the fight drew criticism.

Pimblett Returns to Face Over-the-Hill Ferguson

Lightweight Tony Ferguson was once considered a legitimate contender for Khabib Nurmagomedov. But Ferguson has never been the same since taking a TKO loss to Justin Gaethje in May 2020. Ferguson was initially slated to fight Nurmagomedov for the title, but the Russian fighter had to pull out.

Instead of waiting around, Ferguson fought Gaethje for the interim title and was stopped late in the fifth round. Since then, Ferguson, who had never been knocked out before the loss to Gaethje, has lost six straight fights. He was knocked out viciously with a front kick by Michael Chandler at UFC 274 and submitted by journeyman striker Bobby Green at UFC 291.

Now, Ferguson is likely fighting for his career during a fight with Paddy Pimblett. Pimblett is returning after a year-long absence following a decision win over Jared Gordon. Pimblett has won all four of his fights in the UFC, with three being finished. This is a fight that Pimblett needs to dominate to keep his star rising.

Ferguson has taken a lot of punishment recently and needs to retire. Pimblett should help get him there.

Going Out Like a Lion

The UFC has loaded this card up to send the year out in style. The featured preliminary fight will be between former interim title challenger Josh Emmett and Bryce Mitchell. There are also a number of other high-profile fights battling to entertain everyone in the desert.

Here’s a look at the fights not mentioned above:

  • Women’s bantamweight: Irene Aldana vs Karol Rosa
  • Bantamweight: Cody Garbrandt vs Brian Kelleher
  • Women’s Flyweight: Casey O’Neill vs Ariane Lipski
  • Light heavyweight: Alonzo Menifield vs Dustin Jacoby
  • Flyweight: Tagir Ulanbekov vs Cody Durden
  • Featherweight: Andre Fili vs Lucas Almedia
  • Heavyweight: Martin Buday vs Shamil Gaziev
  • Welterweight: Randy Brown vs Muslim Salikhov

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